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Fantasy football is popular with many people, but there is little talk of its roots. Some imagine a group of men sitting around talking about their favorite teams and players, and then creating a way to choose players to compete against each other.

Fantasy football was created in the Manhattan Hotel on 8th Avenue. A group of men was having drinks, and they were talking about sports. One man, Wilfred Bill Winkenbach, was a businessman from Oakland, California. He had traveled east to watch the Oakland Raiders.

How They Came up with the Idea

In 1962, Bill Winkenbach was in a hotel room, and he and a few friends were trying to figure out how to enjoy watching a football team when it wasn’t winning any games. The Raiders had only won three games in 1961 and 1962, and he owned a stake in the team.

He had already come up with a game for golf in the 1950s, where the friends would select their fantasy team of golfers. They decided to try the same thing with football players from different core positions. They were so excited about the idea that they stayed up all night creating the rule book for the new fantasy game.

Next Steps

When Winkenbach returned to the Bay area, he started his first Fantasy Football League in 1963. He called it the Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators league or GOPPPL.

The first draft was held in August that year, and the room was full of pro football journalists, AFL employees, and Raiders season ticket holders. They didn’t let people join without knowledge of the sport, so the membership was limited.

National Phenomenon

Although membership was limited for the first six years, in 1969, it started to grow. Andy Mousalimas was one of the founding members of the league, and he introduced the game to patrons at his sports bar, King’s X. Most of his patrons were there for sports trivia, but this game was an instant hit.

They started a few leagues, and as work spread, other places started their own teams. However, this didn’t last long because it was difficult to track scores efficiently. It was a lot of work to go through all of the box scores and calculate the scores.

Twenty years later, more than one million people had played the game. Changes were made, so it was no longer a touchdown-only league. Some leagues added yardage, while others added points for receptions.

As it became more popular, more was added to the way it was played. Then the Internet provided the opportunity it needed. Almost 60 million people play today.